Beautiful sunsets make me cry. Newborn babies make me cry. Soldiers in uniform make me cry. Weddings – especially my own – make me cry.
But nothing makes me cry like teenagers.
And nothing makes me sob like teens that drive, except paying the insurance premiums for teens that drive.
I subscribe to the sage advice of two late, great female humorists who said, “The best way to keep teens at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires,” (Dorothy Parker); and, “Never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth,” (Erma Bombeck).
It turns out I did not have to let the air out of the tires. The high price of petrol took care of that.
My baby boy, 16, ran out of gas on his way to take his driver’s license test at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. It’s been downhill ever since.
A few days later, he was forced to hoof it about two miles after running out of gas.
More recently, I had to drive into the yard to get around his car because it ran out of gas in the middle of the driveway.
Not to make excuses, but he’s a lot like me.
His older 18-year-old brother does not run out of gas, but this is either: a) because he has a minimal amount of on-hand cash; b) because he’s learned the economical art of siphoning; or c) because he spends a lot of time crashing into things.
My fairly frequent and frantic conversations sound something like this:
To the 16-year-old: “No, you are not driving to school. It’s five blocks. I don’t care. Use an umbrella. When I was your age I could not afford gas or a car. Heck, I could not afford a bicycle. I walked several miles to school … Hullo? … Hullo?”
To the 18-year-old: What? Your brakes failed and you drove over the fence and into the neighbor’s truck? The important thing is you were not hurt and did not run over the neighbor … you did not run over the neighbor, did you? You still have to go to school. Just walk. When I was a teen, I had no car. I had to bounce on a pogo stick all the way to school … Hullo?”
To the police: “That’s it – the Buick on top of the fence with the front end embedded in the neighbor’s truck. No, that bumper was already torn off from a previous fender-bender. And the back widow was already broken out after he locked his keys in the car and could not think of a better way to get inside.”
To the wrecker service: “That’s right, it’s the same Buick as last month. Just get it off of the fence and neighbor’s truck. The start key is broke off in the ignition, but if you jiggle it with a screwdriver, it should start.”
To the neighbor to the south: “They are my sister’s kids.I’m just helping her out.”
To the 16-year-old: “No more money for gas! There’s this thing in America called ‘a job.’ Try walking. When I was your age, I walked throughout the Midwest, planting apple seeds and wearing only a pan on my head. Okay, that was Johnny Appleseed, but you are missing my point.”
To the 18-year-old: “Good grief! Your accelerator stuck? You drove through two neighbors’ yards and crashed into a cement fence post? The same neighbor? OK – different neighbors – that’s good. The important thing is that you are not hurt and no one was sitting on the fence post … no one was sitting on the fence post, right? I’ll take care of it. Yes, go to school. Just walk. Why, when I was your age … Hullo?”
To the wrecker service: “Yes, it’s the Buick – same one, but this time it’s to the north of our house, not the south. Remember how to jiggle the ignition? If you need something in the trunk, go through the back seat, because the latch is broken.”
To the police: “I know, I know. No one is hurt. Another fender-bender. No, I have not considered changing his name from Christopher to Crashtopher.”
To the neighbors to the north: “We are looking at houses in another state. Really.”
To the 16-year-old: “Okay, so far you are a better driver than your brother, but that’s because you never have enough gas to drive more than 25 feet. And no, I won’t reward you with $20.”
With the radio: “All of a sudden, a rod started knockin’, down in the depths, she started a-rockin’ … Well, they arrested me and put me in jail, I called my ma to make my bail and she said, “Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop driving that hot – rod – Lincoln.’ ”
To the insurance agent (in my best Dr. Evil voice): “So two teens plus two wrecks equals one mmeellllyun dollars?”
To the bartender: “Give me another. I’m walking.”